UCF students tell all about their transgender identities

"I thought my body was going to correct itself. I have to go through all this stuff that women are supposed to or all these people with female bodies. That's not me, I don't want to go through that."

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"I thought my body was going to correct itself. I have to go through all this stuff that women are supposed to or all these people with female bodies. That's not me, I don't want to go through that."

That was the struggle that Habib, a transgender student who is not being identified by the Central Florida Future for safety reasons, went through during puberty. From the time he was young, Habib expected to go through the same puberty as his brother, but once that time came for him, it didn't go exactly as expected.

A transgender individual is someone whose gender expression or identity does not match their biological sex.

Even from his time in daycare, when some struggle with coloring in the lines or learning the alphabet, Habib was struggling with correctly identifying the genders of his classmates. All of that led up to the gender dysphoria Habib experienced during puberty.

While there are medical options for those in Habib's situation in the form of hormone replacement therapy and surgeries, he isn't able to pursue those options just yet.

"A lot of people don't understand that when people are trans and they're in poverty or in a low socio-economic status, they can't continue to transition. They're stuck there," Habib said. "My mother would pay for everything. [Hormone replacement therapy], surgeries, anything but she doesn't have the money."

Though Habib's situation has been difficult, socially and in terms of transition, thousands of people across the globe go through similar situations every day.

According to the Center for Excellence in Transgender Health at the University of California - San Francisco, global estimates are that transgender women are about one in every 30,000 and transgender men are one in every 100,000.

And while Habib is not the only globally to identify as transgender, he is also not the only UCF student to identify as transgender as well.

Oliver Oster, a senior interdisciplinary studies major, identifies as a "nonbinary" individual, or someone who identifies outside of both the male and female genders. Oster prefers to use genderless pronouns, such as them, their and they.

Thanks to Oster's conservative upbringing, they didn't know that anything but the established, normative genders were options for them. That all changed, however, when Oster came to UCF and was introduced to the spectrum of genders.

"Learning [about the spectrum] made me feel like everything made sense," they said. "It was a weird click in my head that I finally felt right. Using she, her never felt right but I never knew I had another options. I've essentially identified as person my whole life rather than a boy or a girl, but I was raised that that's not what people do."

Through Oster's transition as a nonbinary individual, their name, earlier this year, was changed to Oliver. That change, however, sparked controversy and conflict not just at home with their parents, but in the campus LGBTQ+ community as well.

"For about two years I didn't change my name and then in March or April I changed my name because I was like 'well, I want to change my name and this has nothing to do with anyone else,' and people were talking about me in Pride Commons," Oster said.

At home, Oster's mother refused to acknowledge the change. Further issues arose when Oster revealed their intention to have top surgery, or surgery to remove their breast tissue, during winter break.

Until roughly five months ago, Oster said, their parents were furious with the idea. However, as of right now, Oster will be staying at their home to heal after the surgery takes place.

Adverse family reaction is not exactly uncommon in the transgender community. Among the 6,450 individuals surveyed by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force for 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, roughly 57 percent experienced "significant family rejection" as a result of their identity.

Wec, another transgender student at UCF who is not being identified by the Central Florida Future, has faced similar issues with his mother.

Wec is currently taking testosterone as a part of hormone replacement therapy and began to socially transition about two years ago, though his mother has been aware for six years.

"My mother has stated that she won't deliberately get in the way of my transition, but I have to pay for everything myself. She still doesn't use the correct name and pronouns. I don't think she knows I've legally changed my name this year, either," Wec said. "I don't talk with her often these days, although there's the occasional conversation or meet-up."

Other members of Wec's family, however, handled the transition a bit better after some mulling over.

While maternal support has been lacking for Wec, Orlando, as well as online communities have made up for it.

"I've found that Internet communities have been incredibly helpful over the years," Wec said. "I also went to a support group in Downtown Orlando that dealt with trans men, and I found that the people there have been the most supportive, in terms of real life people, especially because a lot of us go through the same things."

As for Habib, he found solace in religion and an online community of fellow transgender Muslim individuals after he converted to Islam earlier this year.

In his conversion, Habib found that even in a culture typically dominated by conservative codes of conduct, there is indeed a place for transgender people.

"Even in the Quran, there's nothing that says trans people or people who dress differently from what their sex or gender is that they're wrong or haram," Habib said.

Haram is an Arabic word referring to anything sinful or not proper.

"We are not haram. I am not haram, anybody who is transgender is not haram," Habib said. "If you have to do surgery, you're doing surgery not because you want to look pretty. You're correcting something to make you feel like a better person and to make you feel like who you really are."

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